After an embarrassing road swing, the struggling Wolverines expected to redeem themselves at home yesterday against first-place Indiana (9-3 Big Ten, 17-8 overall) and pull off a win that could have kept their postseason hopes alive.
Instead, what Michigan (5-8, 10-14) received was a basketball clinic given by the efficient Hoosiers, who breezed to a 75-55 victory.
Indiana”s win assured the Hoosiers of a first-place showdown with Ohio State at Assembly Hall on Wednesday. But for Michigan, its third-straight loss and fourth in its last five games puts the Wolverines” NIT aspirations in jeopardy. The Wolverines now must win their final three games (at Iowa and Wisconsin, and at home against Ohio State) and advance past the second round in the Big Ten Tournament in order to qualify.
For a team that hasn”t won three straight Big Ten games since 1999 and is 1-8 on the road, the Wolverines didn”t have much to be optimistic about coming into yesterday”s loss.
“We seemed to be a little deflated and I don”t think we had as much energy as we usually do here at home,” Michigan coach Tommy Amaker said.
And Indiana made the lethargic Wolverines pay.
Even with All Big Ten forward Jared Jeffries hobbled by an ankle injury, the Indiana offense seemed to score at will on Michigan. Whether it was layups, dunks or wide-open 3-pointers, the Hoosiers made use of their shots.
“They really stretched us and their guards were very efficient,” Amaker said. “They didn”t force shots, and the open shots they were able to get they made every one of them”
Indiana shot 55 percent from the floor, 60 percent from 3-point range and 86 percent from the line. The fundamentally sound Hoosiers also had 23 assists on their 30 made baskets, a sign of excellent ball movement. Amaker said that Indiana”s offensive output forced the Wolverines to hastily try to keep up with Indiana, rather than running through their offense, which created a lot of quick shots and turnovers.
But Bernard Robinson”s electric dunk and 11th point of the first half cut Indiana”s lead to just eight points with under a minute to go in the half. Seconds later, however, Indiana forward Kyle Hornsby once again found himself open from 3-point range and knocked down a trey to give the Hoosiers a 38-27 halftime lead and kill Michigan”s momentum. This started an 11-3 Indiana run that spilled over five minutes into the second half. It was a run that Amaker said was the “most crucial part of the game.”
“We certainly had a lot of breakdowns,” Amaker said. “We weren”t as tough as we needed to be in crucial moments.”
Michigan”s breakdowns gave Indiana”s frontcourt of Hornsby, Jarrad Odle and Jeff Newton plenty of open looks and easy buckets down low. Each ended the game with 17 points, making up for the fact Jeffries scored just four points in 18 minutes of action.
Hornsby broke a school record in 3-point percentage for a game by going 5-for-5, while Odle just missed his third straight double-double and Indiana coach Mike Davis said that Newton had his best game in a Hoosier uniform.
But when Davis needed Jeffries, the Big Ten”s leading scorer came through.
Davis wasn”t planning on playing Jeffries in the second half, but when Chris Young, who led Michigan with 18 points, scored his sixth straight point and drew Odle”s fourth foul with 13 minutes left Jeffries told Davis he wanted in.
Jeffries immediately found Hornsby for a wide open 3-pointer in Indiana”s first possession out of a timeout, and the floodgates opened on the Wolverines. Indiana went on a 15-4 run, extending its lead to 64-44 with five minutes to go, and it cruised from there. The Hoosiers” defense suffocated Michigan, holding it scoreless for a 7:08 span in the middle of the second half setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Foul trouble helped limit Robinson to zero second-half points, and LaVell Blanchard ended up shooting 3-for-13 allowing just as many baskets as turnovers.
“The only way you can win is playing defense,” said Davis, whose Hoosiers are looking for their first Big Ten title since 1993. “I felt that when you contest shots, take away cuts and make it hard to pass the ball it makes it real tough for the opposing team.